Micro-Podcasting at the World Maker Faire


Returning to the World Maker Faire at the New York Hall of Science for a second time provided an opportunity to showcase Audtra's pivot, analytics, and influencer iterations since winning two blue ribbons last year. 

Thank you to Kim and the area managers for relocating the exhibit to the best location—Zone 1 (inside), on street level, after the main entrance exhibit, and the first table next to the info booth, under the donor wall/political leaders. 

Audtra's minimum viable exhibit was too micro to attract attendees, and someone (this author) didn't want to carry a tablecloth or people touching the computer/setup from proximity. "Micro-podcast," my last-minute thought before showtime successfully conjured curiosity from nearly 200 MVE visitors over a weekend.

These included a techie who recorded, "Hi, I'm test-recording a micro-podcast" on my Audtra timeline, and asked if there were any "tastemakers" on the app, "like X or Y." Discipline is responding "confidential until X" instead of disclosing inside information or talking, like most tech investors. Before I could identify what sectors he was in, a younger attendee visited and recorded, "chicken," when prompted to say something for a demo. His father stated the analytics would help them see if he could "think about anything besides chicken," which induced more laughter, before both parties simultaneously left. Someone also stated the analytics "would help covfefe" inventors—no comment.

After the neighboring, Girl Scouts recruiting table left early on day one from running out of supplies, another exhibitor asked the event crew if I'd trade Audtra's prime location with her's downstairs, as she wasn't generating sales, despite being given "a killer spot" for her wider exhibit. I considered trading if they could guarantee Audtra at least one blue ribbon (a primary objective while aiming to beat the project record), but would feel inauthentic citing something unearned (like honorary degrees). Citing Art by Lily Clark's exhibit (my referral to the fair, who ironically got the same location as the app did last year) which sold out on day one, Woolbuddy returning downstairs from California, possible price, market, or product factors, and the ability to request relocation by arriving early, I declined.

Fortunately, Girl Scouts recruitment returned the next day until close, racing to give away recruitment supplies to avoid carrying surplus home. We joked how they should have sold cookies to increase demand, and I shared my info as a potential STEM partner. Sherri, the Maker Media co-founder, gave them a blue ribbon to likewise start a partnership discussion, but left before I could engage.

Notable exhibits outdoors included the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY), the Stanford-Brown 2017 iGEM Team (interned at NASA Ames Research Center), NYU, McGraw-Hill, Raspberry Pi, PolyTwist (next level Rubik's cubes), Cocoa Press (a chocolate 3D printer by a UPenn student), and nostalgia-inducing Apple II and IIe computers. Before getting a computer at 13, my favorite childhood place was the computer lab (not a security question answer) where alpha nerdette me typed http:// before domain names. There was also a satirical exhibit selling $1/sq. foot called New York for Rent, and more left unexplored due to time constraints.

Standing until 6p, the exhibit didn't win any ribbons this year. Unlike last year, only one crew member visited the area (who likely thought the framed ribbons were from this year, so more would be unnecessary, but brought a friend back, who liked the app for cataloging dreams). It was 99% handled by new crew members who didn't know better (and tried to guilt me into giving up a location secured by arriving early). I remain fortunate for winning the two last year, and the three meatballs that the museum normally marks-up, but gave to a starving founder with a badge as they needed to get rid of their hot food. 

My email collection expanded with 10x more handshakes. Table visitors included a pharma IT employee (likely not under Shrekli), who read that in 15 months, the amount of data in existence would double the all-time collection. He expressed that it'd just be narcissistic selfies, Snaps, and videos, with a phone in between faces, whereas Audtra enables deep, face-to-face dialogue with phones out of the way and useful analytics. I shared how it'd empower the marginalized, illiterate, and ill, including paralyzed patients who can only use speech, a forthcoming prison podcast, potential special ed podcast by Lily's mother (a teacher), therapy podcasts like the one featured in The New Yorker, and a potential potcast by a former crew member who awarded the app a blue ribbon last year.

There was also a military commander who stated it'd help with active duty mental health and PTSD. A guy who asked where the Uber pickup was after paella Friday (naturally, because he's from LA), said he'd refer it to his behavioral therapist girlfriend. There were journalists who'd use it for transcribing interviews, and someone who'd recommend it to journalist friends. Someone recorded that it could be used to dictate notes while writing a book, and the reincarnate of the AOL Moviefone voice actor recorded the recognizable greeting. A NYC-based designer recorded that he was hungry, before relaying he'd try to elevate the app since he liked the design and asked where I learned design from, as he'd never seen anything like it. Naturally, as my web language knowledge derived from MySpace/Tumblr design competitions with then-teenage peers.

Surprisingly, a woman remembered my face from seeing me at last year's WMF and that the app had something to do with dreams. As I value privacy and quasi-anonymity, that means I now have to change my face. Impressively, a pre-teen girl quickly understood the product (more than can be said for tech's tweet leaders—"thought leaders" who tweet more than execute), and even asked what language it was coded in. She's still deciding if she wants to be a scientist or dancer when she grows up, and I suggested she could do both.

Someone with a media pass wanted to take a photo for her portfolio, but turned out to also be CNET staffer, Sarah Tew, who featured Audtra in CNET's Maker Faire New York 2017 is a DIY Dream (#16). The first YouTube result for an informal advisor is a CNET demo, so I'll take this and the "dream" in the title as good signs.

Several attendees asked about semantic analysis. Even if a ML algo can't be perfected from false-positives (as the current, manual tagging prevents bad words in camaraderie from being tagged as false-negatives), with the v2.2 and v2.3 updates (featuring AI in a different context), my work and I will grow beyond making a dent in the world, and bend the universe whole.